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Case Number 08763: Small Claims Court

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Poltergeist: The Legacy: The Complete First Season

MGM // 1996 // 970 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 8th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Naugle is afraid of his television, which makes it really difficult to review DVDs.

The Charge

"They're heeeeeerrrrre…and they're on basic cable!"

The Case

Welcome to "The Legacy," a secret group of paranormal investigators sworn to protect innocent humans from the forces of darkness. The group includes the mysterious leader Dr. Derek Rayne (Derek de Lint, Deep Impact), psychic Alex Moreau (Robbi Chong, Jimmy Hollywood), Father Phillip Callaghan (Patrick Fitzgerald), researcher Julia Walker (Jordan Bayne), Dr. Rachel Corrigan (Helen Shaver, Tremors 2: Aftershocks), Dr. Corrigan's daughter Kat (Alexandra Purvis), and ex-special operations operative Nick Boyle (Martin Cummins, The Omen IV: The Awakening). Together this team—a part of the paranormal "houses" that are scattered throughout the world to keep us safe—battles otherworldly forces in an attempt to keep the balance of good and evil always shifted in the right direction.

I've always found it strange when television producers decide to base a show on a hit horror movie only to make it comparable in name only. In the late 1980s Paramount released Friday the 13th: The Series, but it had nothing to do with the slasher movies starring masked madman Jason Voorhees. Instead the show revolved around an antique shop with rare, possessed items, an old shopkeeper and a couple of teens helping him solve oddball mysteries (it was kind of like a grown-up Scooby Doo). Though I'm a fan of the Friday the 13th film series, I'll admit I never watched the show. Even Freddy's Nightmares wasn't really based on the Nightmare on Elm Street series—just the loose concept (and host Freddy Krueger). Why would I want to sit through something that has nothing to do with the actual characters I fell in love with in the first place?

Which brings me to Poltergeist: The Legacy, a series that ran from 1996 to 1999 and takes its title from the Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg feature collaboration from the early '80s. Much like Friday the 13th: The Series, Poltergeist: The Legacy has nothing to do with the original Poltergeist flick or its two sequels, Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III (sadly, Craig T. Nelson and the rest of the Freeling family are nowhere to be found). Instead the show (whose producers also worked on sci-fi show The Outer Limits) revolves around a secret society of ghost hunters divided into different branches across the globe. There are no tract housing developments on sacred burial grounds, no trees swallowing little screaming children, no skeletons popping up out of swimming pools. This could have easily have been titled Ghostbusters: The Live Action Series and no one would have given it a second thought.

So the big question is this: is Poltergeist: The Legacy worth your time? Yes and no. Compared to today's higher production values this show is everything short of spectacular when it comes to monsters, supernatural occurrences and scares. Then again, you can't really blame the show—it was produced in the early 1990s when CGI was still in its infancy, highly expensive, and not nearly as advanced as it is today. There are a few genuinely creepy moments (dealing with such subjects as supposed child abuse, fanatic cult leaders, evil imaginary friends), but they're few and far between. The show often plays like a carbon copy of The X-Files—it's got that same spirit, just in a more old fashioned horror way, and no David Duchovney.

So it comes down to the cast to make this show sink or swim. While I can't say these are Academy Award performances, overall the actors do a decent job with what they are given. Special mention is given to Helen Shaver as Dr. Corrigan, a tough yet tender mother, and the enigmatic Derek de Lint as Derek Rayne, the passionate leader of The Legacy. Each story allows the characters to step forward and show off their abilities, or sometimes just hover in the background while others take on the cases. While some characters are more memorable than others, this truly is an ensemble driven show (even if it's not completely successful).

Fans of shows like The X-Files and The Outer Limits may be intrigued by this show's not very unique premise (people hunting bad spirits has been done to death). Personally, I found myself nodding off during various episodes—I guess Poltergeist: The Legacy just isn't my cup of ectoplasmic tea. Call me crazy, but I'd rather watch Carol Ann run around a Chicago high rise apartment building with Tom Skerritt in tow than sit through the second season of Poltergeist: The Legacy.

Each episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, the original aspect ratio for when the show aired. Overall these are just above average transfers—there appears to be a bit of grain in the picture, though never so much that it detracts from enjoying the show.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English, French and Portuguese. Much like the video transfers, these audio tracks are good, but by no means great. There is a little activity in the rear speakers, but it's mostly ambient and nothing to write home about. Overall the mixes are clearly recorded with a minimum of hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.

Extra features on this three-disc set (housed in slim line jewel cases and a cardboard sleeve) have been kept to the bare minimum—all fans get are four bonus trailers and that's it.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 76

Perp Profile

Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Portuguese)
• English
• French
Running Time: 970 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Horror
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Four Bonus Trailers


• IMDb

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